Friday, October 1, 2010
Superman Has Left the School Building
Superman Has Left the School Building
Thu, Sep, 30, 2010
"Waiting for Superman" is the new film by documentary filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, director of "An Inconvenient Truth," and it should be mandatory viewing for every member of Congress.
As a synopsis on the Fandango movie site says, this film "explores the tragic ways in which the American public education system is failing our nation's children..."
Not only do we see children and their parents on the edge of their seats during a lottery that will determine who gets the educational equivalent of a "get out of jail free" card, we also watch the crestfallen faces of those who don't draw the magic numbers for decent schools, a better education and, thus, a hope for the future. Is this how a poor child's destiny should be decided, by lottery?
During a recent appearance on the "Today" show, a woman in the audience asked President Obama why he selected a tony private school for his daughters -- Sidwell Friends, where tuition is $31,069 a year -- over D.C. public schools. He said Sasha and Malia could not receive the same level of education from D.C. public schools that they get at Sidwell Friends.
The president said because of his position "we could probably maneuver" to get them into one of the better public schools, but he said the "broader problem" is that parents without "a bunch of connections" don't have such options.
Nice try, but if he wanted to place his daughters in a public school, no connections would be needed. Jimmy Carter sent his daughter, Amy, to a public school when he was president. The issue for the Obamas and everyone else with school-age kids is which school provides them the best education?
The poor do not have a choice, other than a lottery. This is immoral.
Members of Congress -- mostly Democrats -- are channeling the late Alabama Governor George Wallace, who in 1963 stood in the schoolhouse door at the University of Alabama to prevent blacks from entering. Today, certain members of Congress are metaphorically standing in schoolhouse doors, preventing the poor from leaving.
Asked for a review of the "Superman" film, the president said it is "heartbreaking" and that the educational future of children "shouldn't depend on the bounce of a ball." And yet it does and the reason is that too many politicians are in the pocket of the teachers unions, which pour gobs of money into their re-election coffers. Some members of Congress act as if their futures are more important than the future of a child.
The president's professed concern for failing schools is not matched by his actions. According to the Washington Examiner, he and his allies in the U.S. Senate "opted to kill D.C.'s federally funded school voucher program rather than risk sinking the $410 billion omnibus spending bill that will fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year."
In his book "Dreams From My Father," Mr. Obama wrote that when he was a community organizer in Chicago, "The biggest source of resistance (to school reform) was rarely talked about . . . namely, the uncomfortable fact that every one of our churches was filled with teachers, principals, and district superintendents. Few of these educators sent their own children to public schools; they knew too much for that. But they would defend the status quo with the same skill and vigor as their white counterparts of two decades before."
Government schools are a monopoly that disproportionately hurt the poor, the very group Democrats claim to defend. That the Left does not demand equal opportunity for poor children and their parents is more than outrageous. It is hypocrisy.
I would like to sit with Senators Harry Reid and Dick Durbin and Speaker Nancy Pelosi as they watch "Waiting for Superman" and after witnessing what I'm sure would be tears, ask them, "How can you do this to children? How could you let their brains die from intellectual malnutrition and doom them to a life of misery all because you want to please a union?"
Of all the things that disgust voters about Washington politicians, refusing to let poor children escape from failing government schools may be the most disgusting of all.
“Superman” and Silver Bullets
Thu, Sep, 30, 2010
There may be no such thing as a silver bullet in public policy, but universal parental choice is the closest thing we have to one — assuming our politicians summon the courage to run with it. And based on the current trajectory of academic achievement in America, it is clear this courage needs to be summoned immediately.
Time is running out for another generation of American students – yet despite overwhelming evidence of failure of government “solutions,” there remains little willingness to think outside of the bureaucratic box when it comes to raising academic achievement.
Even the latest indictment of the failed public education monopoly — a documentary called Waiting for “Superman” directed by liberal filmmaker Davis Guggenheim — fails to take the necessary step of endorsing solutions that fall outside of the public system.
Currently, more than 1.2 million students drop out of school each year. Seventy percent of eighth-graders cannot read at grade level. America’s standardized test scores are falling further behind the rest of the industrialized world — including the scores of our “best and brightest.” These dismal results perpetuate poverty, crime, unemployment and the many social costs that accompany them — while fueling an “innovation gap” that will only further weaken our already reeling economy.
At all levels of government, bureaucrats have tried to solve these problems by spending more money. In fact, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics per pupil federal education spending has risen almost 190 percent since 1970 (after adjusting for inflation). Keep in mind that this money is being spent despite the fact that our Constitution gives the federal government no authority whatsoever to meddle in education. Meanwhile, state and local education spending has also exploded — now consuming 27 cents of every dollar that these governments collect each year.
Cognizant of growing public impatience with such a mediocre return on taxpayer investment, the next “solution” proposed by the bureaucrats is focused on the institution of government-run accountability — most recently the federal No Child Left Behind law. Yet despite political rhetoric about erasing the “soft bigotry of low expectations,” the harsh reality is that government-run accountability has done nothing but move the goalposts in an effort to conceal the failure of the public system.
No Child Left Behind “inflates state test scores but the inflated scores don’t mean real learning has improved,” says Lisa Guisbond, a testing reform analyst with the National Center for Fair and Open Testing.
In fact, according to the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results, improvement has actually slowed under No Child Left Behind.
The latest “solution?” Expanded parental choices — except instead of actually providing parents with these choices, government bureaucrats continue to control their availability (and funding) while keeping the money firmly ensconced within the public system. These are the “choices” being advocated by the makers of Waiting for “Superman.”
“The film doesn’t promote real, essential reform: Taking money away from special-interest dominated government schools and letting parents control it,” writes Neal McCluskey, Associate Director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom.
“While many charter schools and their founders have tremendous vision and drive, charters are still public schools, and as such are easily smothered by politically potent special interests like teacher unions,” McCluskey continues. “Moreover, while charter schools are chosen, charter schooling still keeps money — and therefore power – out of the hands of parents.”
By supporting public school choice, charter schools and limited, means-tested private school choice, bureaucrats are promoting the illusion of choice without actually providing it — much like government-run accountability has provided the illusion of progress without actually attaining it. Can our nation, our taxpayers and our economy really afford another “reform in name only?” Parental choice could be the silver bullet — but if it is to succeed, it must be universal.
America’s school children shouldn’t be forced to wait on “Superman.” They shouldn’t be forced to wait on anyone. They deserve real choices that promote real accountability and real achievement — and they deserve them now.
The author is chairman of Americans for Limited Government.
To read another article by Cal Thomas, click here.
To read about the best solution for the problems of our public schools, click here.
Posted by Brett at 12:46 PM